EAVESDROPPER: Don’t cry over political surveys

January 21, 2010 at 9:30 am Leave a comment

By Virgilio Sar. Maganes

If a politician seems to be in a lead in a survey, he is all smiles as if he owns the whole world, but if he is tailing behind, he says that the results of the survey was manipulated, rigged or came from dubious source.

As the campaign period draws near, a lot of political surveys are being conducted, both at the local and national levels. Prominent among the political surveyors are the Social Weather Station (SWS), Pulse Asia and the Ibon Foundation. There are also social surveyors at the local levels but are not figured out prominently, thus some politicians considered their results as dubious- incredibly and statistically improbable just like the case of Philris which appeared in this paper between Vice Governor Marlyn Primicias-Agabas and Sec. Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. who are both running for the congressional seat of the 6th district of Pangasinan.

But, are surveys for real?

Every survey agencies have their own statistical measurements based on questionnaires that have been drafted. They are not the end to determine the validity of the results but as a means of projecting social sentiments by the respondents. That is why in the results of survey , the coefficient of errors, either plus or minus are being presented to cover the gap of inconsistencies.

There are elements in conducting surveys: the universe or the group which the survey will be drawn from, the questionnaire or protocol which will be the basis of questions, the interviewers who will be in field work to ask the questions and get the results and the statistical treatment. Each of these elements is not separated from the other. They are intertwined, so to speak, to make the results valid and credible.

The SWS and Pulse Asia Survey have a universe of more or less 1,500 respondents all over the country. The question now is whether that group represents the majority of the more or less 40 million electorates. For example, from the 1,500 respondents, how many of these come from Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and Metro Manila? If equally distributed, that will be more or less 700 per area. But that will not be the case. The distribution shall be based on the total electorates in each area.

Now, how about the social strata of the respondents? How many are the “very poor” or those living in the squatter areas, middle class and the elite- or plainly the A,B,C,D crowd? Survey results from social strata give different views. People in the squatters usually talk about their poverty, their helplessness and living condition, thus they have different view whom to vote for. The same applies to the middle class and the elite. These groups are mostly opinionated and yield varied results.

The questionnaire is very important. It has something to do with the structure of the questions. How these questions are prepared could yield mind-boggling results. For example, if the question is: Of the ten candidates for president, select the top three whom you will vote if the elections will be held today?, or, Of the ten candidates for president, whom you will vote in May 2010 elections? The two sample questions will yield different results. In the statistical analysis each question shall be treated differently.

One of the strongest elements of surveys are the interviewers. Of course, before these will be fielded, they will be oriented on the questionnaires and the areas they will conduct their surveys. But here’s the rub? How sure are we that the interviewers really honest in writing the answers? Don’t they have biases, too? How sure are we also that they really go to the respondents? Or, they might be there in the malls and conducting table surveys? If so, then the more that the results of the surveys are incredible and invalid.

For statistical treatment, that will now be technically processed by the statisticians. There will be statistical formulas for treatment, cross references and other technical measurements.

Surveys are but surveys. Politicians particularly the presidentiables who are tailing behind in the surveys should not weep on the results of SWS or Pulse Asia surveys. The best thing one could do is to commission the survey- pay for it and believe me the survey result will place you in a higher position. Maybe, you can buy one survey results in Quiapo as what said by presidentiable Noynoy Aquino of the Liberal Party.

Surveys are conditioning the mind of the electorates just what like the subliminal effects of the infomercials we watch over the TV and hear over the radio every hour of the day.

Why be conditioned. Think!

(For comments, email me at emperorvirgil@yahoo.com)

Entry filed under: News.

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